Ambassador Susan E. Rice Remarks Accepting Jack Valenti Award
As Prepared For Delivery:
Good afternoon, everybody. It’s great to be with so many rising leaders as well as more seasoned ones. Fortunately for you, I believe that a good speech should be like a good speaker: short.
Thank you to Robert Marbut and Sam, who—in addition to offering those very gracious words—has been doing top-notch work with the Domestic Policy Council’s immigration team. I also want to thank Rose Vela for her leadership on the Commission. Let me recognize as well my team’s other current White House Fellow, Harrison Hines, who is so ably supporting our health team and will be delivering the invocation later today. I also want to thank my former Fellows, including Brian Kitching, Pia Dandiya, Britt Stitch, Tom Barron, and Wes Spurlock, who I understand was the ringleader behind me receiving this award. Thank you, Wes.
I’m deeply honored to accept this Jack Valenti Friend of the White House Fellows Award. It is made all the more meaningful to me because my family is close to the Valenti family, and Jack was one of my father’s dearest friends, and Mary Margaret one of my mother’s. If memory serves, the relationship began in nursery school, when my younger brother Johnny threw a block and hit Jack’s son John in the head. Somehow, that led to a fast and enduring friendship not only between Johnny and John, but between his sisters and me and between our parents. The Valenti spirit of generosity (not to mention forgiveness) and of service is legendary, whether hosting an elegant, bipartisan Christmas party at the Motion Picture Association of America or supporting this Fellowship for more than four decades, ever since its inception.
It is especially gratifying to be nominated by the Fellows themselves, because this is a truly remarkable group. It’s not every day you get to work alongside a neurologist-slash-theologian, or some of the education sector’s youngest and most talented entrepreneurs, or the guy who used to carry the nuclear football. But, that’s what makes this Fellowship so special, and why I’ve been such a big supporter of this program throughout my decades in government.
Each of you brings to your work an exceptionally high level of professionalism and passion. You share uniquely valuable perspectives that we don’t always get in government. Your tenure may only last one year, but—as evidenced by the alumni in the room—your contributions last far longer.
That’s especially true for those of you who stay in government, which brings me to my hard sell. I hope—in fact, I urge—all of you to stay in or return to public service. Because we need you. We need your smarts, your skills, and your commitment. As you know, the work is hard. The hours can be long. But, I believe this is the most interesting and rewarding work you can do. Every day brings fresh challenges. Not to mention, there are few places where you have the opportunity to have such great impact on so many lives. And, there are few things more gratifying than when you do.
Thank you once again for this tremendous honor, and thank you for the contributions you have made during this Fellowship and in the years since.